Saturday, March 26, 2011

Simpler Times : “Mrs. Beeton’s Every-Day Cookery”

A number of years ago  I was given a book, which belonged to my grandmother.   It was given to her as a wedding present in 1929.    “Mrs. Beeton’s Every-Day Cookery”.

First ....A little about Mrs.  Beeton ......

“Isabella Mary Mayson (March 12, 1836 - January 1865), universally known as Mrs. Beeton, was the author of Mrs. Beeton's Book of Household Management and is the most famous cookery writer in British history.”
On a visit to London, she was introduced to Samuel Orchard Beeton, a publisher of books and popular magazines, whom she married on 10 July 1856.
She began to write articles on cooking and household management for her husband's publications.   In 1859–1861, she wrote a monthly supplement to The Englishwoman's Domestic Magazine.
In October 1861, the supplements were published as a single volume, The Book of Household Management Comprising information for the Mistress, Housekeeper, Cook, Kitchen-Maid, Butler, Footman, Coachman, Valet, Upper and Under House-Maids, Lady’s-Maid, Maid-of-all-Work, Laundry-Maid, Nurse and Nurse-Maid, Monthly Wet and Sick Nurses, etc. etc.—also Sanitary, Medical, & Legal Memoranda: with a History of the Origin, Properties, and Uses of all Things Connected with Home Life and Comfort.
After giving birth to her fourth child in January 1865, Isabella contracted puerperal fever and died a week later at the age of 28.”   (

Although most of her books were written for women with large households, with servants/maids and staff, “Mrs. Beeton’s Every-Day Cookery” , a revised edition published after the first World War (after her death), has a few chapters which are pertinent to our times.  After the war “times were changing” which touched all households.  Chapters of this book include – “The Art of Using Up – the cry and need for economy is greater to-day than ever” , “Vegetarian Cookery”.  There weren’t convenience foods available 100 years ago as they are to day, and electrical appliances were just starting to become available for those who could afford.    The book is filled with information on cooking from scratch and household hints and ideas which could certainly be used today and have long been forgotten.

“Though not widely known outside of Britain, Mrs. Beeton was Victorian England’s answer to Martha Stewart. Mrs. Beeton’s massive Book of Household Management, published in 1861, offered its readers no-nonsense, practical advice on all aspects of housekeeping, cooking, child care, dealing with one’s servants, managing one’s poultry, and the ins and outs of properly addressing dinner invitations. Of paramount importance in learning to run one’s Victorian home like a well-oiled machine, and second only to the Virtues of Cleanliness and Rising Early, was the twin Virtues of Economy and Frugality.”

She lived a short life albeit 28 years, wrote numerous articles and books and had four children.  An amazing lady !

If you’d like to learn more about Mrs. Beeton, Masterpiece theatre put out a very interesting movie (which I found at the library) entitled “The Secret Life of Mrs. Beeton”.    Masterpiece Theatre - Secret Life of Mrs. Beeton

Friday, March 18, 2011

Spring Has sprung !!!! .......At least in my House !!!

Oh….. spring is just around the corner.   I can feel it !  even though there still is snow on the ground here and it’s still tries to snow / rain or combination of both. (weather can’t decide).   

Today I planted seeds … yes !

Tomatoes (various kinds – cherry (yellow & red), beef steak, yellow and red  tomatoes, heirloom presimmons; red & green peppers, purple mallow, tarragon, basil, silver dollar).  All the seeds were saved from last year’s harvest or given to me, except for the heirloom presimmons .   I splurged on the heirloom tomatoe seeds at a recent local organic fair, with the hope of being able to save some seeds from this year's tomatoes for next year.

recycled yogurt containers used as seedling pots

I bought fresh “seedling earth”, some new trays (my old ones were leaking), saved individual yogurt containers for pots (remember to poke holes in the bottom) from others recycling efforts; the seedling labels came from old venetian blind slats cut up.

In lieu of the rising cost of food and an interest in growing my own food, I am expanding my raised vegetable beds this year.  Hubby is a great recycler and has already started searching out wood for free.   This year he found someone with long pieces of wood that they were going to cut up for firewood and is trading it for wood he already cut up and is stored in our garage (see previous post on our simple winter heating).  The long pieces he found are perfect for building my new raised vegetable bed.  

Hubby promised to build me a cold frame (from recycled wood and windows found during “large garbage days” – soon to be another post) so my seedlings can be planted outside earlier this year and extend my growing season.

It's easy to start your own vegetable seeds indoors.   If you only have a window sill you can still grow fresh herbs year round.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

My Journey to Simplicity – Part 1

My journey to a simpler/frugal lifestyle has not come easy.   Simplifying is not easy…. but well worth the effort and journey to get there.   It is a journey, as it is always a moving target to keep your life simple.   There are so many influences/distractions in this world that will creep back in to your life and fill it up again that can make it stressful.

Hiking the Bruce Trail - enjoying nature's solitude

My journey at first was out of necessity.  As a young single parent many years ago with two small children, funds were extremely tight and it was really tough supporting the three of us on my small salary, working three jobs.  Then when Mr. Right came along it was easier for a while, but then he became ill and couldn’t work for a couple of years and now only at  seasonal part time low paying jobs.   

In the beginning of my journey, there wasn’t the internet for searching out resources.  Others my age at the time were not simplifying, but buying bigger homes, taking big vacations and simplifying just wasn’t the thing to do !    So instead of feeling like a “have-not”, I turned my simplicity journey into a game and have had a lot of fun in doing so.

I have learned many things along the way and am thankful for my love of home crafts.   I can’t tell you the joy you get from being creative and finding creative ways to “make things work”.   I am thankful too I have a hubby who equally shares in the joy of being creative. 

In the beginning I got lots of ideas from books at our local library (one of my favourite places).   

A few of my favourite books include:
  • Tightwad Gazette – Promoting Thrift as a Viable Alternative Lifestyle , Vol 1, 2 and 3  - Amy Dacyczyn
  • Your Money or Your Life - Vicki Robin & Joe Dominguez
  • Enough - Lifestyle & Financial Planning for Simple Living - Betty Jane Whylie
  • Less is More - Cecile Andrews & Wanda Urbanska
  • Square Foot Gardening – Growing More in Less Space  - Mel Bartholomew (see my post on “Simple Garden)
  • Rightsizing Your Life - Ciji Ware
  • Simplify Your Life –
    Elaine St.
It’s never too late to simplify (downsize, right size or whatever the latest word of the day is) !   Stay tuned for more on my simplicity journey…..

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Simple Heating

With the rising costs of utility bills, and added GST, it’s getting harder and harder to get ahead. 

There are many ways to help cut heating costs.   One way we have reduced our heating costs is by installing an insert into our wood burning fireplace.   After one winter, the savings we have incurred almost paid for the cost of the new insert.   We are now into our third winter with the insert and have reduced our natural gas bill by over one third.   We keep the temperature of our house on the cool side, which is also better for sleeping.   The fireplace is in the room we spend the most time in and keeps us very cozy.    A ceiling fan helps circulate the air into the rest of the main floor. 

During the summer/early fall season hubby collects free wood that various companies put out for garbage, such as broken skids and what others put out for large garbage.    He brings it home and cuts it up into smaller pieces that fit into the fireplace.   His wood findings are plentiful during the summer and early fall months, when most people are not thinking about winter’s cold and snow.   This past summer/fall he filled half our garage with cut up wood, enough to last us the whole winter plus get us through the early part of next winter.  All for free.

Eco friendly Tip:   To keep the glass window of your fireplace clean:  using a damp cloth (or newspaper), dip into the ashes in fireplace.   Use to wipe the window clean.   It does an excellent job !! 

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